TANDUAY Light assistant coach Estong Ballesteros sees Aljon Mariano's career enjoying a new lease on life in the PBA D-League after a tumultuous collegiate career with University of Santo Tomas.
Mariano has proven to be a vital cog in only his second game with the Rhum Masters, posting a team-high 21 points including 12 right in the first quarter of their 70-59 win over Racal Motors.
The former Tiger has been averaging 16 points for the Rhum Masters, who won their third successive games to the Christmas break with a 4-4 win-loss slate and in sixth place in the standings.
“Ibang Aljon Mariano ang makikita niyo sa kanya,” Ballesteros, a former assistant coach of UST who was happy to be reunited with his former ward at Tanduay Light.
Ballesteros said Mariano has been responding to the challenge of reviving his career after a rocky final two years with the Tigers where he copped flak after the school's finals defeat to La Salle two years ago.
Although he averaged 11 points for UST last season, Mariano hasn’t really been the same player after getting most of the blame for the his errors late in the Tigers' Game Three loss to the Green Archers in 2012.
Now that they have been reunited at Tanduay Light, Ballesteros said he will try his best to help Mariano get his game back.
“Para ko na ring anak sila Aljon kaya hindi ko rin siya pababayaan. Mabait naman ‘yung bata," Ballesteros said. "Part naman kasi ‘yung masamang laro. Part ‘yan ng buhay mo.”
“Sabi ko sa kanya, 'Gusto ko ibalik ‘yung dati mong laro pero ikaw mismo, kailangan mong magtrabaho. Nawala rin siya sa UAAP tapos walang kumuha sa kanya sa D-League. Chinallenge ko siya na mag-improve.”
So far, the 22-year-old is doing his part.
“Ngayon, nagpalaki siya ng katawan. Dalawang game na siyang naglalaro at maganda ang pinapakita niya. Sana nga mag-tuluy-tuloy,” said Ballesteros.